Constant's pations

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Syria: Is American ready to apply the lessons of Iraq?

It's one thing to analyze what went wrong in Iraq.

It's quite another to pause and see if we aren't doing the same with Syria.

There are many saying "we should have asked these questions with Iraq." Well, now's your chance to apply the lessons from Syria to Iraq.

I thought I'd share some comments and thoughts about Syria. The more I look at the US pressure on Syria, the more I see a common pattern with what happened in Iraq.

It got me thinking: What might we have done in Iraq had we known what we know in 2005?

Clearly, we can't turn back the clock, but we can apply these lessons to new situations like Syria.

* * *

There’s open discussion about accountability for the Press in re WMD, Judith Miller, and the leaking of a CIA agent’s name.

In theory, the reflection would translate into public discussion, application.

The issue, at the time, was that there were problems with information not being reliable, and that the State was advocating action.

This reflection is all well and good, but is meaningless if the lessons aren’t immediately applied to other situations.

Specifically, I argue that these lessons learned about the run up to the war in Iraq need to be applied to Syria in how the US is similarly drumming up public support for action.

My concern is, despite the public discussion about the lessons learned in Iraq, these lessons are not being applied to American policies in re Syria.

First, what’s needed is a quick overview of the lessons from Iraq.

Second, an application of those lessons to Syria.

Third, a demonstration that the lessons from Iraq, if applied to Syria, would adjust the debate and arrive at new points for analysis.

Fourth, what is to be done differently?

* * *

In short, we have the same players and environment we had in 2002. The only difference is that we've got a mess in Iraq, as opposed to an ongoing debate.

The players haven't changed since 2002; they've simply moved around. The only one that has been removed from the screne is Secretary Powell. All the others involved with Iraq are still in a position to influence the decisions and lobbying.

We have the same consultants, same system that grinds down whistleblowers, and the same ineffectual IG process that rubber stamps what the SES does or doesn't want held to account.

This is the same system and risks which occurred prior to Ambassador Wilson getting smeared.

Despite all that we now know, America has learned, despite the lawless invasion of Iraq, that America can claim the moral high ground despite there being no high ground or morality.

In short, the same bacterial soup which fermented into the Iraq disaster has simply had more time to mutate into other creatures when it comes to Syria.

Overall, the media's public debate at the NYT over what went wrong seems too narrow to Judith Miller. Rather, we need to have a larger recognition that the key issues with Iraq are still getting in the way of covering Syria:

  • Witnesses have no credibility

  • Support for plans are based on innuendo

  • The arguments for specific policies are overstated, and not credibly linked with facts

  • The vacuum of facts is being used as proof of something which cannot be specified, yet some assert to know the right policy or course of action

  • The level of evidence is questionable

  • Despite the weakened White House position over the Fitzgerald indictments, those in the know continue to face real risks of retribution and retalation for speaking out aginst what apepars to have already been set in motion.

    * * *

    The lessons from Iraq are still emerging. But what we do know is that the White House will focus on outcomes without regard to facts or arguments.

    Second, it is clear that the White House will organize information to suit its arguments, even going so far as to overplay information.

    Third, the White House, even when given contrary evidence, will still continue to pursue a policy, however flawed or devoid of legal foundation.

    Fourth, the White House will find the key decision makers, whether they be in the media, non-governmental organizations, or other branches of government, to influence through any means.

    Fifth, those who do not tow the line will be ignored, blacklisted, smeared, and retaliated against.

    * * *

    Syria, in light of the Iraq lessons, appears to be another Iraq.

    It appears the White House, regardless the actual facts, wants to paint Syria as primarily responsible for the events in Lebanon. This argument is problematic.

    First, to suggest that a government like Syria, that has control over a region, must there for have knowledge of all events in that region, is flawed. If we were to apply that argument to 9-11, then all the events surrounding the WTC attacks would, because they are on US soil, be directly responsible of the American government.

    This may be true in the United States; but the issue isn’t whether one can, by simply pointing to an umbrella, assert that all events in Lebanon, because of Syrian presence, are subject to Syrian control.

    Second, we already know that the Syrians were aware the United States was looking for a reason to invade. Why would the Syrians do something that would antagonize the US?

    Third, if we were to presume that the parties that knew of the communications were also involved, would ask that we not apply this argument to the Americans and British in re the Echelon. If Echelon was working, then because the US and UK failed to act on what they most likely knew, we could argue that the US and UK were just as likely as the Syrians to be aware of what may have been planned.

    Fourth, presuming the Syrians, because of their intelligence network in Lebanon, knew the likely impact if the Syrians were linked to any instability, it doesn’t seem plausible that the Syrians would take action without regard to the backlash. Rather, it’s more likely that the Syrians were surprised by the attack, and stayed in Lebanon because of the unstable situation.

    * * *

    To call for sanctions on Syria at this point, with mere allegations, would ask that any country that wanted to allege anything about the US, would be justified in leading an embargo of the United States.

    * * *

    I see nothing before me that specifically links the events in the Hariri assassination to specific Syrian involvement.

    * * *

    It appears the US pressure on Syria started around the time the US pressure on Iraq started, and that these ruse-WMD efforts were not isolated to Iraq, but part of a larger reframing of the regional arguments in re the US role in the region..

    I believe, if the US doesn’t get sanctions, the US will highlight other efforts.

    * * *

    It doesn’t appear as though the basis for the Security Council discussions are any more factual that the Powell briefings, yet the discussion continues.

    We should be hearing alarms going off saying, “Remember what they did at the Security Council with Iraq, and those bogus WMD photos. We’ve had no sanctions on the US for that action; there’s no reason to believe they won’t do the same with Syria.”

    * * *

    Keep in mind the double standards on arguments. Some would assert that to suggest the US is doing the same thing with Syria as it did with Iraq is inconceivable. Yet, look where we are with Iraq: Inconceivably, despite no evidence of WMD, the Congress voted to authorize the US of force.

    Inconceivably, the Congress was given information that was fabricated and it deferred to the President the decision on whether to go to war or not.

    Inconceivably, despite no legal foundation, the US has avoided sanctions.

    Inconceivably, when an Ambassador spoke out about the ruses, his wife who happened to be a CIA agent had her name leaked by the White House.

    Inconceivably, we are asked to believe, in the vacuum of sanctions or indictments, that what happened in Iraq could not happen again.

    * * *

    At this point, just as the Iraqis did prior to the US invasion, I expect that no amount of Syrian cooperation will be good enough for the US.

    No matter what the Syrians do or do not do, the US is going to change the rules, demand more information, and work to grind down the Syrians just as it did with Iraq.

    Yet, the key question as this point is: What is going to ensure the US does not, as it did in Iraq, get away with changing the standards on what is considered acceptable levels of cooperation.

    Recall the Americans continued to state, “Iraq knows what it needs to do,” leaving that as an open-ended requirement that the Iraqis comply.

    Well, the Iraqis, despite having no WMD, did comply; yet, this cooperation, no matter what was done, was never good enough.

    I fully expect the US to use some sort of technical violation or some ruse agreement as a trip wire to justify triggering a UN Security Council crisis, mandate, call for action, and resort to force.

    I fully expect the US to use doctored photos, shrills from its own party, and people form within the US to talk about vague threats from Syria, but there be no evidence.

    * * *

    Most of the arguments about Syria imply that Syria is behind the problems in Iraq.

    If this were true, then all the Americans would have to do is seal the Iraqi border with Syria and that would be the end of it.

    Apparently, Washington would rather put the responsibility for the security situation inside Iraq on those who are outside Iraq. If that logic were credible, why not blame the man on the moon for the state of affairs for the Katrina Hurricane.

    * * *

    Furthermore, if the Syrians were really behind the problems in Iraq, then the Syrians, with their single method of training, would have a single threat and common way of training the insurgents. In turn, if the Syrians were behind this single training strategy, the US should be in a position to effectively move against a single strategy.

    However, we see the opposite. The US, despite allegations that a single nation is behind the instability in Iraq, cannot effectively organize against this single training approach.

    Indeed, if we are to believe the mighty Echelon capabilities, then the same capability that should be able to confirm Syrian actions in Lebanon, should be able to confirm the Syrian actions in Iraq.

    But, curiously, despite Bolton’s’ acknowledgement that Echelon spies on Americans illegally, we have nothing specific from Echelon that links Syria to either Lebanon’s assassination or the training commands sent from Damascus to Baghdad.

    Echelon does pick things up. If there truly was a high priority in Iraq and concern with Syria, then those intercepts that were related to this clear threat would get first priority and the evidence would be before us.

    But we have the opposite. Despite the catalyst of 9-11, we have no increased effort on Damascus because there is no information that is real.

    * * *

    The US continues to build the case for war against Syria, just as it did with Iraq. Yet make no mistake, the same ruses we saw with Iraq are going on with Syria.

    If there were no ruses, then the US wouldn’t have had to wait for the UN report to assert a concern or call for action. Rather, it would have used Echelon to direct the investigation to specific credible information.

    We saw in the wake of KAL007 that the US can provide this information when it wants to.

    This time, the US thinks that it can simply ride the UN report and get the rest of the world to rally to that conclusion, despite the vacuum of evidence.
    * * *

    The issue becomes what is the US movement capable of doing, if the Syrians do not assent to some nebulous outcome the US wants.

    Furthermore, what could we expect to see in terms of demands, and what might the international community be asked to digest until there is something mirroring blind Syrian groveling to the Americans.

    We’ve already seen that the US is capable of doing anything including committing torture, drafting memos in the US authorizing torture, and then holding no leaders to account.

    We’ve also seen the US pick innocent civilians off the street, cut their clothes off, and then throw them into VIP transport to parts unknown.

    In short, the Americans are capable of doing anything and they view themselves as being above the law.

    The only thing the Americans require is self-approval that their actions, however unlawful, are serving some greater good.

    This is no different than what the Nazis did: Justifying invasions to help the locals. It was only when the locals resisted that the Nazis then self-justified using greater pressure and force to subdue the local population.

    * * *

    The issue becomes what is going to stop the Americans. I see nothing. The rule of law is meaningless. They do fabricate information, and they have shown no credible basis to believe that their approach to international policy is anything short of lawlessness.

    The Americans have a curious approach to the world. There is one set of rules that they impose on others, and the Americans will ignore those rules. What’s worse is the US will then retaliate against those who dare hold them to those standards.

    The Americans are not reliable, they will lie, and they have a strange sense of the rule of law. The law is there as a restraint on others; but that law does not apply to them. When they cannot compete for the hearts and minds, they will use that resistance as the self-justification to ignore the laws.

    In short, but for the different standard of living and the calendar, there is no difference between the American Republic and the Nazi War Machine. Both machines are willing to do what they view as self-justifying anything.

    * * *

    The issue becomes what is needed to have this debate about Syria that we should have had about Iraq.

    The time has come for people to dig out their concerns about Iraq, and ask themselves what has changed. I see nothing has changed.

    I do see the same system in place drumming the beats of war, with the same expectation that the masses will be manipulated to support that which they will not freely support absent that manipulation.

    We also need to ask what the Americans plan to do once they get control of Syria. They’ve made a mess of Iraq; why should we believe the Syrians are going to be in a better position in 2009 than they are in 2005?

    Is the US the only one that can define what is best for the Syrians?

    * * *

    Let’s consider the general concerns about Iraq that should be getting raised with Syria.

    We hear in 2005 that the Press should have been independent, asked more questions, and be willing to not rely on anonymous sources.

    let’s go one step further and ask why the Press isn’t asking the same critical questions that the congress said it needed in 2002?

    Where is the independence of the media in holding the same Administration that lied to us about Iraq to some credible level of accountability that we have been denied since the first days of BushCo?

    Let’s go down the list:

    Why should we believe the US wasn’t behind the assassination?

    Why should we believe the US argument that the Syrians are responsible for all things the US hasn’t been able to solve?

    Why should we believe the US government is not leaking bogus information about Syria to its friends in the media, with the full expectation that these media shills are manipulating the debate?

    Why would we believe the US has a plan of what it is going to do with Syria once it invades?

    How many years is the US willing to stick to a false story, grind down the Syrians, and use any effort the Syrians make resembling an act of self-respect as something that warrants the UN to authorize force?

    What evidence does the US have in Echelon and NSA files that has not been fabricated that would tell us what really happened?

    Why should we believe the US and UK, because of Echelon, didn’t know what was going on prior to the assassination but failed to intervene?

    Is it in the US’s interests to make the Syrians the ones who are to blame for something the US and UK may have orchestrated with the Israelis?

    Are we going to rely on the bogey man of Hitler as the excuse to grovel on the ground and blindly ignore the rule of law so that we can invade countries we accuse of resembling the ghosts of WWII?

    How many CIA officers does the White House plan to lake to Mr. Novak for publication if they speak out about what their concerns are with these apparently baseless charges against Syria?

    Will the grand jury that looks into this White House manipulation in re Syria be stationed in another town other than Chicago, or are we going to simply permit Fitzgerald to put Syria on the list of situations to investigate?

    * * *

    I’m all for being prudent. But what I’m not for is putting pressure on Fitzgerald to shut down this grand jury.

    Given what I’ve seen, I would applaud any effort to appoint a special counsel to investigate why, if we really had 9-11 reforms, where was Echelon when the Syrians were supposedly doing all this stuff.

    After 9-11, we were told never again. But we are asked to believe that that doesn’t apply when it comes to Syria.

    Someone messed up prior to 9-11. it appears that disaster was desired. I expect, in the end, we’ll find out that the Syrians didn’t have anything to do with this assassination, and that the Americans and UK either were involved, or know exactly what happened.

    * * *

    It’s time for the Senate intelligence Committee to get off its rear end, and demand that NSA give them the information about Syria: Either Echelon is working and we picked up something; or, like Able Danger, the US have evidence in the NSA files that show the US and UK were involved in the Assassination.

    At this juncture, it’s clear despite the lessons of 9-11 and the Able Danger programs, we’ve got a host of questions that aren’t getting asked or answered.

    I suspect the reason is that the media, despite its public self-beating, still hasn’t worked up to the fact that it has a credibility problem.

    there’s no use teaching our students and children about the benefits of democracy when American leaders are afraid of letting its citizens see whether this government is really performing.

    We saw in the wake of Katrina that despite Congressional oversight, things were botched. I fully expect to find out the same with Syria, but this time the RNC will be there pointing at the media saying, “Why didn’t you make us do the right thing?”

    * * *

    Congress needs to appoint a special counsel and find out what is wrong with the NSA. Either the NSA, despite 9-11, hasn’t reformed and missed the information from Syria; or NSA, as was done with Able Danger, is sitting on information that could put people in jail.

    It’s time to send a clear message to those in the NSA, DoD, and CIA that we as American citizens are going to dare to listen to them, and not let the White House brow beat them into silence as was done with Iraq.

    There are Scott Ritters, Sibel Edmonds, and a host of people willing to put their lives of the line to defend America.

    But we insult their service and bring discredit on this constitution when we ask them to sacrifice their integrity in the name of principles we do not practice.

    * * *

    Let’s get a serious debate about what really went wrong in the NYT with Judith Miller. Maybe if the Media is serious about finding out what went wrong with WMD and Iraq, we might have some real questions of the White House Press Corps about what is going on with Syria.

    Let’s ask the media again:

    How many American deaths over Syria do you want before the tough questions start getting asked?

    How many years of empanelling a grand jury do you want to spend standing outside the courtroom trying to guess what the prosecutor is trying to find?

    Wouldn’t it be easier to ask these questions now, rather than try to dig through the many months of leaks, rumors, and innuendo from a grand jury?

    If your sources have already shown they will lie, why do you offer them confidentiality?

    I say quit the non-sense over your access, and start talking about what the Americans do not want the public to know: The same non-sense that went on with Iraq is going on with Syria.

    The burden of proof is on the Americans to demonstrate otherwise. They’ve lost all basis to believe them.

    Or do you want another quote from someone that gets read on the airways, and then spend the next three years wondering what the quote means?

    Beware this leadership. It shows no inclination to respect you or the rule of law. It beats the drums of war to invoke the name of principles, but takes those principles with as much respect as a mother bear shows a hunter.

    Perhaps the real problem was that despite the explicitly quote you had in 2002, the analogy you had wasn’t in terms you may appreciate.

    Do you want a sports analogy. Think football. The team that you’re playing against is simultaneously changing the rules, bribing the referees, moving the cameras around, adjusting the lighting, they have a second team that is playing on another field that simulates all the problems, and they’re filing this illusory game as if it were real, and then showing those faked photos as a basis to disqualify the opponent that hasn’t done anything wrong.

    The only thing the opponent did wrong was believe the American team could be a credible force to oppose on the football field. The error is that America will do amazing things when it wants to, and also abysmally fail when the facts are known.

    Look to the lesson of Katrina to find out what Americans, when they are forced to deliver, can actually do when under the gun.

    Otherwise, assume all that they say and do is nothing but a ruse.

    You’d best spend your time looking for the other football fields where the staged violations are occurring. There are camera crews on the ground who know exactly what they are doing, and getting paid handsomely to contribute to another ruse for Syria.

    It’s up to you: Whether you want to use the lessons of Iraq, and carefully dig into what is going on with Syria; or whether you want to believe, despite no sanctions, America has remedied its ways.

    Katrina shows us that unless there are meaningful questions and real fact checking, the real situation is far different than what the Congress and American public are led to believe.

    * * *

    Ask yourself why is there a rush with Syria?

    Whose timeline are we really working on?

    All these years of problems, and suddenly the Americans decide that action must be taken now. What basis is there to believe that this deadline has any merit?

    Who wrote the speech for John Bolton to condemn the UN for its failure to address these issues?

    How many demonstrators does the White House plan to put in leg irons if they speak out, as they did with Iraq, over the issues in Syria?

    How many agents in the JTTF plan to intimidate American civilians for asking questions about whether the US has the plans in place to credibly resolve what is going on in Syria?

    How many theater goers does the US plan to investigate for attending movies that raise issues about the similarities between Syria, Iraq, and 9-11?

    How many people does the US plan to torture in Guantanamo for them speaking out about the abuses in Iraq that the poorly disciplined Americans are planning in Syria?

    Do you want to live in a country that beats itself up about mistakes it makes in Iraq, but then doesn’t ensure that those lessons are applied to Syria/

    If you don’t want to have answers to questions like this, why don’t you just volunteer for the military, and blindly follow orders. God knows America will defend your right to commit war crimes, and blame ghosts for the leadership problem.

    Be proud of living in a country that retroactively finds what went wrong, but does a poor job in ensuring that those lessons are applied in new situations.

    We already had Vietnam. Now we have Iraq.

    Perhaps you want Syria as well.

    * * *

    Let’s suppose the same thing in Iraq is unfolding with Syria and that the US persistence is related to a larger effort to dominate Syria.

    The issue some believe is, “How will the US achieve its objectives.” Perhaps if we take a step back and ask a more fundamental question, given what we have in Iraq [a mess, no security for the oil, and a problem with the world oil supplies], why is the US worried about Syria, when there are more pressing issues with Nigeria/

    What would explain this fascination with Syria and the Middle East?

    Would we not be better off if we spent more time ignoring the middle east and focusing on reliable sources of oil like in Russia?

    What if all the money that was spent on invading Iraq was used to invest in Russian oil exploration or in beefing up the security and lifestyle of the Nigerians who already provide us oil?

    What if the US, rather than getting into a catfight with Venezuela, simply put its hands out, accept the offer of assistance during Katrina, and as a way of showing our appreciation, do what we can to stabilize the Venezuelan borders from the regional drug trafficking?

    My point isn’t that the oil is or isn’t important. My point is that despite a known problem with oil, we’re now running into Syria. Who cares about Syria?!?

    We’ve got far higher priorities to face: Why should the US believe it is going to get needed support in the future when the world is facing a real problem affecting just an isolated region.

    It’s one thing to burn your bridges. It’s quite another to, over the sake of power, burn bridges simply because you want to continue with a policy that is devoid of legal foundation.

    I shall not accept the argument that the laws should be changed simply because, in hindsight, the players weren’t willing to stay within the confines of the law. If the law doesn’t matter, then the law doesn’t matter for all.

    But that’s not civilized society. That’s barbarism. Don’t ask your agents to take an oath to a constitution, but then kick them in the rear-end when they point out the problems with the SES leadership and its failure to look at this problem differently.

    I encourage everyone to rally ask the question: Why is Syria all that important in the big scheme of things. Other than the fact that the US invaded Iraq illegally and Syria is its neighbor, is there really something that is specific.

    I see nothing that is specific. I see the same hand waving we saw in 2002, but this time I do not see the questions about Syria that would’ve been asked about Iraq.

    Why now?

    What’s the rush?

    What’s the deadline?

    Why aren’t the other solutions to this problem acceptable?

    Are the requirements you’re imposing something you really want to agree to, or are you going to change the rules again?

    * * *

    So what are we going to do differently this time with Syria?

    What’s going to be done to make sure the US and UN Security Council are making sure that the debate is based on reality and facts, not accusations and a pre-determined policy?

    What role will Congress take in vetting this information?

    Will the American public, as it was with Iraq, be blackmailed as it was with the patriot Act to submit to the non-sense of be threatened with detention?

    I do not see a compelling argument that there is an imminent threat in Syria. If there is, then someone needs to explain why, despite this apparent threat, Iraq was invaded first.

    * * *

    Vietnam was based on a theory of dominoes. We didn’t use nuclear weapons because the Chinese might have retaliated.

    Bush and Blair are reported to have discussed which country, after Iraq, was on the list of WMD targets: Iran, Syria, or North Korea.

    Supposedly Iraq was the biggest threat. Fine, we’ve found out this big threat was an illusion. So why should we believe that the threats in Syria, Iraq, or North Korea are suddenly more pressing?

    Even if the US does take action, how will it support that effort?

    Clearly, the US could attack from the air as the Israelis did. But I ask you: Why the rush; what’s so imminent; and is there not another way?

    Why is there a group of people who are quick to use military force, even going so far as to fabricate evidence to justify using that force, and then lying about whether the threat was imminent or not?

    Isn’t it odd that we have this strange group of people floating around Washington, apparently with unfettered access to the media, yet this stuff just appears in the media without any vetting?

    Are the publishers and producers so moronic that they refuse to stand up to this non-sense?

    Let’s put yourself in the position of a producer. Your real client isn’t your reader or viewer, it’s the advertiser. Your job is to create stuff that the Advertisers will pay top dollar to sponsor. Whether your audience is or isn’t moronic you don’t care. Your goal is to get eyeballs.

    Well, why isn’t the eyeball-factor driving the producers to create content that actually addresses what people are concerned about? Last time I checked a majority of viewers don’t think we should be in Iraq; so why isn’t that same lack of public support then driving advertising revenues to encourage producers to ask the same about Syria?

    It’s up to the producers and publishers to explain. But I do know that in the end, the producers and publishers don’t care about the public. Their loyalty lies where the dollars come from, even if those dollars are moving on the basis of non-sense and illusions.

    * * *

    America enjoys getting lied to, because then the free citizens, when they realize they’ve been betrayed, will run to the lawyers and therapists in search of assistance.

    That means more dollars and contributions for the lobbyists to defend us from this insanity.

    Then again, wouldn’t it be simply smarter to do what makes sense: Ask the questions, weigh the evidence, and then really ask why we should believe them this time?

    If we had that, maybe we might have something called an American republic.

    Until then, we have the same non-sense as the Nazis in Hitler’s 1930s, except this time you’ve got a chorus of shills in the media trying to convince you otherwise.

    If you’re not afraid of the truth, then maybe its time to simply answer the questions for yourself: Yes, America, you are being lied to about Syria and your government is planning to do the same thing in Syria as it did with Iraq. The only difference is that this time, they’re going to make you believe you’re freely doing it based on evidence.

    It’s still an illusion. Just like America’s democracy and republic.